Images of Rebecca West, from the International Rebecca West Society website
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Rebecca West Prize for Writing

About the Prize

This annual prize of £1,500 was established in 2017 at St Edmund Hall by the Rebecca West Literary Estate, to celebrate the writing, life and achievements of Dame Rebecca West. Rebecca West (1892-1983) has been called “the world's number one woman writer”, “the greatest woman since Elizabeth I” and “a strong contender for woman of the century”. As a young woman she was a fiery suffragette and socialist; by her thirties, she was a world-famous journalist and political analyst as well as a distinguished novelist.

Previous Winners

The inaugural Rebecca West Prize for Writing was awarded to Ian Madison, a DPhil student in International Development at Jesus College, at a ceremony at St Edmund Hall in June 2017. Read Ian's winning essay Treason in the Age of Globalization: A Journey through Kosovo.

The judging panel also selected a runner-up: Owain Johnstone, a DPhil student in Socio-legal Studies at Christ Church, for his essay, The Meaning(fulness) of Treason.

How to Enter

All students at the University of Oxford can apply by submitting a piece of writing of 2,000-2,500 words on a topic related to Rebecca West’s interests, set each year by an International Panel.

The topic for 2017’s prize was ‘The Meaning of Treason’. “If a state gives a citizen protection, it has claims to his allegiance,” wrote Rebecca West in 1947. In the recent past, many of the most egregious acts designed to evoke terror in the general population have been carried out by natural-born citizens of the countries in which the attacks occurred, as exemplified by Dylann Roof of the Charleston shootings, or Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam of the airport and metro attacks in Belgium. In a world of ‘globalisation’, where tribal allegiances can easily abjure geographical and political boundaries, when does ‘terrorism’ become ‘treason’? And, if there is a useful distinction, should we prosecute one differently to the other?

Full details of the prize will be advertised each year on the St Edmund Hall website; the closing date for entries is usually in April.